Black gold, and a free pallet bin

One of my very first harvests every Spring is black, not green.

I deliberately set my coop’s run directly on the soil in order to be able to use the deep bedding method. The method is simple: every time the bedding starts to look gross, you add another deep layer of organic material on top. It’s that simple.

It works because of the contact with the soil; earthworms thrive underneath all that wet bedding, and with all the, ahem, chicken deposits, the composting method really gets cooking. It never stinks, it could not possibly be easier, and you never ever have to shovel out the run.

Unless you want to, of course. Because of this:


gorgeous, gorgeous compost. All mine.

Over a year of layers of straw, leaves, grass clippings, earthworms, and poo, you build up quite a lot of very rich compost. So every Spring I “harvest” the chicken coop. I usually have to spread it directly on my beds, cover it with mulch, and let it wait a few months before planting in it, because I had nowhere to put it.

But the other day I found four free pallets! The day after  Josh heroically brought them home for me in the back of our comically small pickup, I set up my first compost bin. I had to chop up a hard maple stump with a pickax first, but I eventually got it all screwed in place. Two 2x2x6′ posts driven into the ground in front provide stability for the sides and also nice edges to hold the cross boards in place. It was just about as easy as I’d hoped – if it hadn’t been for that cussed stump I’d have been done in less than 45 minutes – and I faithfully, in grand tradition, failed to take a picture of it before I filled it. You can kind of see it in the corner of this one picture here.



So I immediately had to fill it, of course! I layered each barrowload of used bedding with a barrowload of free woodchips, sprinkled on a few handfuls of the woodash/biochar mixture I’d saved up from our woodstove this winter, and mixed it all up. Except, here’s a picture of just that first barrowload:


that’s a lot of poo.

After only maybe 3 sandwiched layers and only 1/4 of the coop cleaned out, I realized I couldn’t do any more fancy composting and just filled the thing up to the absolute brim with straight used compost bedding. I found the biggest worm I’ve ever seen:




and the chickens were going bonkers in there scratching around and pecking up all those little tiny compost bugs & critters I’d exposed. They all came back in from foraging – I guess pickings in there were pretty good. I expect some very yellow eggs this week, gals.


six chicken makes it a party.


Anyway, even without layering in any extraneous materials, I could only fit about 3/4 of the coop’s bedding into my new bin. I have resigned myself to adding the rest in later once this composts down a little bit.

Which it ought to do pretty quickly, given how rich it is. Is it super geeky that I’m really tempted to buy one of those compost thermometers and track its progress? I plan to let it sit til next year, if I can.




Those plastic bags are full of leaves that the neighbor’s kid drags over whenever they rake. I guess he caught me sneaking his curbside yard trash bags one too many times, and now they bring them over regularly. (kidding… mostly.) I dump them into the chicken coop – free bedding! saved from the waste stream! already conveniently bagged up for easy dispersal! – and feel very smug. And then I fold up the bags and reuse or recycle them.

So it’s only one bin’s worth, but I am ridiculously excited. Real compost. With all that added fertilizer. Properly aged. I can’t wait to see the vegetables it grows… I’m just itching to get my hands on some more free pallets and start my own little compost empire!



4 Responses to “Black gold, and a free pallet bin”

  1. Julie Says:

    you can get free compost bins from AA County waste – They’re just the simple black plastic rounds, but I like them because they’re simple – I set it up, toss randoms stuff in it till it gets filled or I get tired of it, then let it sit till I’m ready to use it, pull up the stakes and lift off the plastic, and rake up whatever is inside. It might not quite be large enough to get up to full decontamination temperature for seed killing, but probably does just as well as what you’ve been doing for that.

  2. Diana Guillermo Says:

    I have a couple of those round ones that I love to use for leaves. They do a great job, but they’re fairly flexible and small. My dad has an amazing system of enormous bins with a slanted screen built over it so you can climb in and shovel up the half-finished compost onto there and the finished stuff will filter through into the next bin. I want one of those some day!

  3. Sam Says:

    I’m jealous. We have yet to do anything exciting to our new property. Removing wood chips and the stupid fabric to keep every thing from growing is where we’re still at after a year. Previous owners killed at least two of the three trees in the fenced area by running the fabric right around the trees and not allowing any water in. *sigh*

  4. Diana Guillermo Says:

    Nice. When we moved in there were plenty of beds that had been lined with thick black plastic and filled with gravel. I still haven’t gotten rid of all of them. :( But you’ll get there! Be sure and take before photos, unlike me. :)

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